As it becomes increasingly clear that the NHS will be a major issue in the forthcoming EU referendum, the Chief Executive of the NHS has spoken out on the potential of a British Brexit.
Simon Stevens has suggested that Britain leaving the EU could have massively negative impact on the economic circumstances of both the country and the health service.
Stevens believes that the argument made by campaigners, that an EU exit would free up much needed funds for the NHS and reduce pressure on GP surgeries and hospitals owing to immigration, is misplaced and ill-founded.
Instead, Stevens claims that it would be a dangerous risk for NHS funds that were desperately needed to pay for cancer treatments and mental health investment.
Indeed, Stevens cited evidence provided by the Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, that Brexit could trigger a post-referendum recession.
Speaking on the BBC, Stevens indicated his concern about the possible exit of the UK from the European Union, and outlined his fears for the future of the NHS.
“If Mark Carney is right then that is a severe concern for the National Health Service. Because it would be very dangerous if at precisely the moment the NHS is going to need extra funding actually the economy goes into a tailspin and that funding is not there. It has been true for the 68 years of the NHS’s history that when the British economy sneezes the NHS catches a cold. This would be a terrible time for that to happen, at just the time that the NHS is going to need that investment.”
However, other major political figures disagree with the perspective of Stevens, suggesting that the money which Britain pays into the EU coffers could be redirected elsewhere.
Defence minister Penny Mordaunt has stated that Britain’s £10 billion net contribution to the EU could be spent on other areas, arguing that the NHS and social care would be at, or close to, the top of the list.
Mordaunt also believes that it will be impossible for the EU to prevent the accession of other countries, simply increasing the burden on NHS services.
However, Stephen cited the example of Portsmouth as disproving the argument of the defence Minister.
“At her local hospital, 80 of the doctors are from the rest of the European Union, 350 nurses in her local hospital from the EU. If only a proportion of those chose to up sticks and off on the 23 June that would create real problems in hospitals across the country.”
The Chief Executive of the NHS also suggested that the 130,000 European union doctors, nurses and care workers have made a massive contribution to the health service in the UK.
Britons will go to the polls over the future of the European Union on Thursday 23rd June.